Strength, resistance, endurance, and adaptability are vital necessities for survival in a brutal world, one that continues to perpetrate the horrors of colonialism upon indigenous communities who have been rooted in the land for thousands of years. When looking at contemporary Latin America, we bear witness to an extraordinary blend of cultures in 33 nations on two continents fighting for survival in the wake of cataclysmic waves of warfare, ethnic cleansing, and environmental destruction.
With the Bronx Documentary Center’s (BDC) Fourth Annual Latin American Foto Festival (LAFF), which opened July 15, we see the stories of the people told by those who have lived it. Featuring a series of exhibitions, virtual and in-person workshops, tours, and panel discussions online and within the Bronx, the LAFF presents a series of powerful and poignant stories offering new paradigms that speak truth to power.
Curated by BDC Directors Michael Kamber and Cynthia Rivera, the LAFF features work by artists Andrea Hernández Briceño, Carlos Saavedra, Cristóbal Olivares, Florence Goupil, Luis Antonio Rojas, Pablo E. Piovano, Rodrigo Abd, Victor Peña, and Victoria Razo. On view until Sunday in installations at the BDC galleries, as well as on sidewalks, school exteriors, and in community gardens, the LAFF brings the story of Latin America to the Bronx, home to more than half a million Latinos.
The Fight for Preservation
This year’s edition of the LAA features stories from Colombia, Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Venezuela, Perú and El Salvador, revealing the distinct and common struggles of the people today. Argentine photojournalist Rodrigo Abd takes on the wreckage of Venezuela’s oil industry—once the richest in the world—and looks at the impact of environmental disaster on local fishing communities on the edge of Lake Maracaibo.
French-Peruvian photographer Florence Goupil looks at the traditional use of plant-based medicine among the Shipibo-Konibo people of the Peruvian Amazon to provide relief to those suffering from COVID-19. Yet the survival of indigenous traditions remains fraught with threats from Western imperialist forces like the Catholic and evangelical churches, which have taught people to disregard their cultural histories. The elders of the Amazon are living histories — and the interruption of oral transmission as a result of the pandemic has brought a state of emergency, threatening the survival of the people in the face of abandonment by the government.
Making Resilience Visible
In the series Resilience, Mexican documentary photographer Victoria Razo takes on the subject of femicide, grappling with the issue of thousands of women and girls who are killed every year by strangers and family members alike. “My relationship with violence started at a very young age, and even then, I did not understand why people felt they had the right to touch my body,” Razo writes in her artist statement.
“When I was 14 years old, this violence intensified as I witnessed the kidnapping of my best friend’s mother. To this day she is still missing, her body at some geographical point in the vast territory of a country covered in blood and clandestine graves. It took me several years to understand that the same events I have experienced are experienced by thousands of women and girls who become victims.”
In this series of photographs, Razo seeks to make resilience visible, seeking to show the impact of violence on those who survive and are left to seek justice against the odds. It is a truth that is universal to women and femmes alike, one that reminds us that we must tell our stories lest they be misrepresented or erased.
By Miss Rosen
Miss Rosen is a New York-based writer focusing on art, photography, and culture. Her work has been published in books, magazines, including Time, Vogue, Aperture, and Vice, among others.
Fourth Annual Latin American Foto Festival. Through August 1, 2021. Bronx Documentary Center, 614 Courtland Avenue, Bronx. NY 10451, USA.